Thursday, November 11, 2010


A Post By LeMira

I decided to keep J.R. in Kindergarten this year due to his social and language delays.  So far, I feel very good about it.  I also chose to put him in a charter school.  Overall, I'm happy with that decision, although there are some major disadvantages there (i.e., the lack of speech therapy that he really needs).  The biggest advantages are that he is able to go to first grade for math, and his Kindergarten teacher tries really hard to help him with his math page each day afterward.  She really makes an effort to help him out and give him individualized attention.  J.R. was doing Kindergarten math, but it was too easy for him.  Homework lasted five minutes, which I think isn't bad for Kindergarten; however, he was getting nothing out of it.  First Grade math seems to be on his instructional level, which all teachers know is exactly where you want them to be.

(Quick lesson in teacher lingo.  There are three basic levels when it comes to a student's learning.
Too Hard= Frustration Level.  At this level, you know you need to take a step back.  The child is so frustrated and confused that absolutely no learning is happening.
Just Right = Instructional Level.  The Instructional Level is the one where the child is learning and it may seem a little hard, but with some practice it becomes easy.  Homework and classroom work should be at the instructional level.
Easy= Independent Level.  Kids should be reading books at home at the Independent Level.  Kids are who being taught too much at this level are bored with school, usually.  You find most of your "troublemakers" at school are the ones stuck in the frustration and independent levels.)

Sooo. . . back to J.R.  Once he started bringing home First Grade work, there was a huge jump in how long it took him to do homework.  We spend at least 30 minutes, four days a week, doing homework.  As a teacher, I might think this means it's at a frustration level because a First Grader or Kindergartner should be spending roughly 10-15 minutes a night on homework, not 30.  The thing is, as his parent, I know this is just right for him.  Why does it take so long?  He doesn't understand the instructions or what the problem is asking. It's his language delay.  It takes me three to five attempts to explain the problem/instructions just the right way so he will understand.  Perhaps one day I will find that "one way," but I don't think I'm catching on.

When I first told J.R.'s teacher about his homework, she was surprised at how long we were spending. . . until I explained why.  She understood completely because she experiences the same type of thing with him in class.  The biggest difference is that he doesn't fight her.  He always fights me.  Always.  Every day I hear, "I can't do this. It's frustrating." Without fail, I will hear that phrase at least once (if I'm lucky it's only once.)  I admit that I'm glad that he chooses to fight me and not his teachers, but some days I can't hold back, and I join the fight; which only makes it worse.  The thing is, I know that I get to look forward to this for the next twelve years.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vacuum Therapy and Trust (by LeMira)

I swear it seems that any time a person (usually another parent or friend) tells me that they just can't tell that J.R. has any sort of social delays or signs of PDD-NOS, he is sure to have not one, but several reaffirming PDD moments.  It's like they happen to remind me that yes, it's real.  Yes, I'm not just making up these stories.

When my son was young, it seemed like he loved the vacuum.  He'd crawl around the house, find the vacuum, pull up and stand next to it, and just stare.  He wasn't scared of it, it seemed,  for so long.  In fact, he seemed infatuated with it.  It was a little odd, I admit, but cute, nonetheless.  It was nice that I didn't have a screaming toddler when I vacuumed.  Today, I realized that those days are gone.  Honestly, I think they disappeared after our last vacuum broke and we threw it out.  With that vacuum when J.R.'s comfort; this is the first vacuum change in his life.

The best thing I ever did was make a weekly chore list for J.R. that doesn't change.  He's very good at doing his chores as long as it's routine.  Recently, we had to change his Wednesday chore from vacuuming his room to sweeping the kitchen (you'll understand why as you keep reading, I hope).  J.R. asks every week about this, "We don't have to vacuum, right?"  He knows, but he wants and needs reassurance.  Today I, being the wonderful mother I am, said, "Oh, why don't I vacuum the living room while you sweep the kitchen?"  Sounds reasonable, right?

J.R. responded immediately by plugging his ears and hysterically trying to clamber to his room.  Remember how wonderful of a mom I am?  I grabbed him, trying to be a tease, and forced him into the living room.  Seeing the sheer terror on his face and the tears brimming, I decided the force had to go and the understanding had to come.  I calmly asked what, why, and how the vacuum terrified him.  He couldn't really answer me definitively, although he tried.

I decided to try something.  I let him hold the plug and touch the vacuum.  I encouraged him to push the on/off switch; and touch all over the vacuum.  I wanted him to get to know the vacuum.  When I could see he was still completely terrified after plugging it in, I led him to his bedroom.  While sitting on his bed, we practiced plugging his ears for three counts, then not plugging his ears for three counts.  Then we took turns being the vacuum while the other person counted and plugged.  When he felt comfortable enough, I went and vacuumed the living room while he plugged and counted.  No screaming, running, slamming doors, or tears ensued.  It was a small success.  I then asked him to unplug the vacuum for me.  He asked me to go with him, and so I did. 

This is not the only irrational fear that my son has.  This is only ONE of them.  Dealing with these fears has been very difficult and yet educational for me.  The biggest breakthrough for me was when I finally admitted that I didn't understand them, and then asked myself how could I understand.  That's when I realized that I have fears that seem irrational to others.  My irrational fears usually have to do with reptiles, amphibians, and the dark.

We seem to think that dealing with our fears head on and jumping in to them is the way to "get over them," or that doing these pranks (like me pulling my son into the living room) will help us; that it will be therapeutic.  The truth is, I think it's actually more detrimental.  How would I feel if someone stuck a snake around my neck, or even worse, a frog down my shirt?  I'd probably scream!  (Now, don't get any ideas.)  And then, I would never trust that person near me again with anything moving.  EVER.

How did my son feel today when I was carrying him to the vacuum?  How did he feel when I turned it on, even just for three seconds, without his permission?  I daresay he felt violated.  I took the trust and stomped on it.  That's why we did the "vacuum therapy."  I had to regain his trust.

I find that I have to constantly rebuild trust with him.  It pains me that I have to do this because it means that I keep breaking that trust.  It's hard.  I don't fully understand, and I never will.  The one thing I want, though, is for my child to feel like he can always come back to me.  I need to figure this one out.

How do you deal with your child's irrational fears?